Fly Fishing, Planning, Basalt Colorado
Friday, 15 Jul, 2016
Basalt is a town where not one, but two great rivers run through it. Since the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork are renowned the world over for their abundant trout, it’s no wonder the town is home to great fly shops.
Basalt is a town where not one, but two great rivers run through it. Since the Frying Pan
and Roaring Fork
are renowned the world over for their abundant trout, it’s no wonder the town is home to great fly shops.Taylor Creek Fly Shop
183 Basalt Center Circle
Basalt, Colorado 81621
907-927-4374Frying Pan Anglers
231 Midland Avenue #205
Basalt, Colorado 81621
907-927-3441Crystal Fly Shop
1087 Highway 133
Carbondale, Colorado 81623
No doubt fly shops are places to see what’s new, shop for gear and give some serious thought to that new rod you’ve been longing to acquire. Yet they are so much more. One reason fly fishing has such strong appeal is that it’s as much about brains as brawn. Knowing when to go, where to strike out, or what fly to use can make a huge difference in how things “net out.” Before venturing into the water, a visit to a local fly shop is a smart way to gather intelligence.
is the oldest regional guide service and gear retailer in the area. Their knowledge and experience enable them to offer a large and varied menu of trips and the ability to outfit you accordingly. Fly on the Wall, Taylor Creek’s newsletter, is as thorough as it is entertaining. It’s obvious they are experts and love to share what they know.
If you are looking for information, great guides and a unique fishing experience, checking out the Frying Pan Anglers
Store is a good option. They provide a nicely stocked store and offer a full array of outings with something new – bike/fishing trips into the Roaring Fork Valley on the Rio Grande Trail. Also new – lodging with access to private waters on site and in town.Header Image: "DSC_0211" by Lorana Price. Used under CCBY/Cropped from original
Most everyone has heard of Aspen, known for its physical beauty, great access to skiing, high-end resorts, and home to innovative think tanks and institutes. Yet just a ½ hour drive ... morenorth on I-82 will take you to Basalt, a mile-high jewel of the Rockies. Surrounded on all sides by the White River National Forest, Basalt is also where two of the state’s best fly fishing rivers come together – the Gold Medal Frying Pan and Gold Medal Roaring Fork – and it’s a mere 30 minutes to the Colorado River.
Named for the nearby rock formations on Basalt Mountain, this town like many others in Colorado began in the late 1800’s as a mining and railroad junction. Trains were used to move people, charcoal and charcoal kilns, which at the time brought people to the area and employed many. Today the Frying Pan Kilns at Arbaney Park are an important tourist attraction.
Adventure sports and outdoor activities are the major tourist draw to the area. Within the White River National Forest there are 8 areas officially designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, including Eagles Nest, Flat Tops and the Hunter-Fryingpan. In addition, there are 10 peaks with elevations in excess of 14,000 feet including Snowmass, Castle and Gray’s Peak. The area also features a dozen ski areas including Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands, Beaver Creek, Snowmass and Vail.
Anyone planning a fly fishing vacation along with others not interesting in casting a line, there are scores of alternative activities to keep them engaged. They can choose from White water rafting on the Roaring Fork, boating on the Ruedi Reservoir, and needless to say, skiing. For those who like to bike, there are over a dozen, world class, cross country bike trails, as well as lift accessed down-hill biking throughout the valley. Hiking trails are numerous, varying in length, elevation and difficulty.
Not to be outdone by Aspen, Basalt is home to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) new “Net-Zero Innovation Center,” located on the banks of the Roaring Fork. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is also currently building a new, state of the art center near RMI’s.
There are several ways to reach Basalt, including:
Fly into Grand Junction Regional Airport and drive approximately 2 hours
Fly into Denver International Airport and drive approximately 3 hours
Fly into Colorado Springs Airport and drive approximately 4 hours
Fly into Salt Lake City International Airport and drive approximately 6 hours
With a name like this you know there has to be a story. In fact there are several, but our favorite is the most obvious – that long ago there were so many fish (native cutthroat) they ... morejumped right out of the river and into your frying pan. It begins near Mt. Elbert as a stream fed, heavily pocketed, freestone river. From there the river turns northwest and flows into the Ruedi Reservoir, where since 1968, its waters have been dammed. This 14 mile, Gold Medal, section - from the reservoir to the Roaring Fork at Basalt - is considered one of the state’s best tailwaters.
By definition, Gold Medal in Colorado means the fish are plentiful – a minimum of 60 pounds of trout per acre with at least 12 fish over 14 inches in length. Together with the designated 28 miles of Roaring Fork water, this is the longest, continuous Gold Medal run in Colorado. The introduction of the dam brought an unintended side effect when Mysis shrimp were introduced into the Reservoir to support a Kokanee salmon fishery that was never completed. The result – big boys, pigs, hogs, giants, or whatever you call them - the shrimp diet produces monster fish.
Add abundant, year round hatches and it’s no wonder anglers flock here to fish. The Frying Pan is known for its fabled Green Drake hatch that typically starts in late July and extends through October, drawing even the savviest fish to the surface. In addition to Spring Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches, this tailwater is one of only three that hosts the Serratella ignitia, a flightless BWO that attracts fish like ice cream attracts kids.
The river above the reservoir is less crowded and less regulated. The Gold Medal run is catch and release, artificial lures only.
Often overlooked by visitors to the area, the Crystal is an undiscovered gem worth finding. Starting at the confluence of its north and south forks, the river winds down from the alpine ... moremeadows of the Elk Mountains above Marble, Colorado and drains into the Valley of the Coal Miners. Because there are large shale deposits in its drainage basin, the “crystal” water can get muddy after a hard rain or during spring runoff, but if you catch it right it can deliver some great trout fishing.
Public access is quite good since most of the river flows through the White River National Forest and runs nearly parallel to highway #133. In the fall, brown trout come up from the Roaring Fork River to spawn, which can provide a great opportunity for anglers. The state stocks rainbow and cutthroat in the public sections between Marble and Redstone because hatches tend to be lower here than in other parts of the river. This is the only section that is stocked.
Higher concentrations of rainbow are found as you move toward the river’s confluence with the Roaring Fork. Because this is a swift moving river, the fish are known to hold out in current seams and banks where it’s possible for them to feed without exerting too much energy. Most consider late spring to early fall the best time to fish this wading river.
Between Crystal City and Marble, the river works its way through the Crystal River Canyon, a narrow valley with a challenging landscape. Fishing is known to be good here but the terrain is rugged and access is difficult due to seasonal mudslides, snow slides and rockfalls. If this type of adventure appeals to you, be sure to only go in with an appropriate, 4 wheel vehicle.
As a tributary of the Colorado, and the Frying Pan and Crystal as its main tributaries, it’s no wonder that large stretches of the Roaring Fork are ranked as Wild Trout and Gold Medal ... morefisheries. Originating high on the western edge of the Continental Divide near Independence Pass, this steep gradient river is aptly named. During its 70 mile run, the river drops over 7,000 feet, generating speed, turbulence and Class I to VI rapids. The Roaring Fork Watershed is vast, draining over 1,450 square miles, an area comparable in size to Rhode Island.
Above Aspen, the upper waters can be waded and are flush with brown and rainbow trout. Located in the White River National Forest public access is plentiful and well marked. The distance between Aspen to Carbondale, a 4200 ft. drop, is a highly regarded section for fly fishers and is also easily accessed off Route 82.
From Aspen to Basalt, the river loses gradient with another 1300 foot drop but picks up volume from surrounding mountain waters. Most of this section is designated as Wild Trout Water indicating that the river can support trout through an entire, natural life cycle. At Basalt the Frying Pan joins the Roaring Fork and the volume of water increases significantly. The 28 mile distance between Basalt and the confluence with the Colorado at Glenwood Springs is the famed Gold Medal run. The Crystal River converges with the Fork near Carbondale and maintains the Gold medal moniker that started at Basalt.
Restrictions apply in the designated waters and vary from section to section and from season to season, so it’s important to obtain current information before casting off. The Upper part of the river is good for wading. Floating is best suited for the lower stretches but requires someone experienced in whitewater navigation.
Current Flow: near Emma -880cfs
The Fork topped out near 880cfs at the beginning of the week but has been falling all week due to the cooler weather. The Fork offers some good fishing ... morehigher up above Basalt at the moment but as soon as the temperatures increase the flow will pick up again. So keep you eye on the temperatures for an indication of the rate at which the melt will pick up again.
Current Flow: Below the Dam 245cfs.
The Pan is OK at the moment with good water conditions. The fish are still laying low but there were reports of reasonable fishing closer to the ... moreDam. Note that from the 3rd of June it is anticipated that the releases will be up with the endangered fish program. The Pan will run high for about a week. When the water comes up it won't be good fishing for a day or so, but when it settles down to a consistent flow it will be good fishing close to the dam where there will be floods of mysis shrimp coming through. The remainder of the river will be hard to negotiate for the few days when it runs at its highest level.
Recommended Flies:Use midges, bwos, nymphs and attractors. The fish are also taking small nymphs.
For mysis at the dam use Mike's Mysis. epoxy mysis, and BDV mysis.
The midges will come off during the day, particularly if it is sunny. So try Wilson's Reverse Candy Cane #20, red and black chironocones #20, nick's larva in miracle pink, olive, and purple back, brassies #18 - #22, midge larva patterns #18 - #22,copper johns #18 - #22, rainbow warriors, black polywings #18 - #22 and bling midges # 18 - #22.
As they come off try the gray loopwing emergers #20 - #22, the FPA special emergers, biot emergers both with and without the trailing shuck and gray RS2's#18 - #22, Johnny Flash in Olive, Grey, and Black, Olive and Red Jujubee, trailing shuck midge black and cream.
In addition try dry patterns such as the z-wing real midge, black cdc midge and any similar dry black and gray patterns in sizes from #20 through to #26.
The fish are taking generic nymphs such as pheasant tails and caddis larvapatterns. The BWO's are coming off as well. Try emerger patterns such as rs2'sand WD-50's.
For BWO naturals use standard BWO's, parachute BWO's, parachute Adams, and Thorax patterns.